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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: Intermodal volume drove rail traffic growth in November


U.S. freight-rail traffic continued to make up lost ground last month, as railroads hauled 2,036,889 carloads, containers and trailers in November, up 3.1% compared with November 2019's level, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Although U.S. railroads originated less carload traffic during the month — 900,194 units, down 5.8% — intermodal volume climbed 11.5% to 1,136,695 containers and trailers, according to AAR data.

Nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month logged carload gains compared with November 2019. These included grain, up 23.1%; chemicals, up 3.4%; and grain mill products, up 5.3%.

Commodities that posted decreases during the month included coal, down 16.9%; petroleum and petroleum products, down 19.9%; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 10.3%.

"Excluding coal, total U.S. rail carloads are now very close to where they were before the pandemic hit with grain volumes approaching record highs due to soybean exports," said AAR Vice President John Gray in a press release. "Meanwhile, U.S. intermodal volumes have seen near record highs the past couple of months due to both import volumes and internet purchasing by consumers."

Excluding coal, carloads declined just 0.9%. Excluding coal and grain, carloads fell 4.5%.

Year over year, U.S. carload traffic for the first 11 months of 2020 was 10,380,769, down 13.8%; and 12,340,929 intermodal units, down 3.1%.